Branding : It’s About Them

Brand Identity & Design, The Independent Creative, Uncategorized

October 25, 2011

As creatives & business owners, we have the unique opportunity to be selective when it comes to who we work with. However, all too often, we aren’t. It’s easy as an independent owner to accept every client & job that comes our way. I have a feeling most of us aren’t as selective as we should be.

While you’ve spent this time focusing on yourself, and building a brand (and brand identity) around the best parts of yourself, you must be selective when it comes to the people you work with.

Why Being Selective Matters

At the end of the day, I judge my success by my happiness. Sure, I love knowing the bills are paid, but really, if I wasn’t happy, I wouldn’t be doing this. Working with the wrong kind of client is the fastest way to become tired & experience the burnout that is often associated with running your own business. I hope that none of you have that nightmare client! For those of you who have … It’s a tough pill to swallow, but it’s more-than-likely your fault: you either didn’t do enough work in the beginning to analyze the client, or you ignored red flags before booking. I only say this, because I’ve been there myself.

Understanding your ideal client (their wants, needs, behaviors), is just as important as understanding yourselfYou and your product/service are not perfect for everyone, however, once you know who you’re marketing yourself towards, it’s much easier to exceed expectations and build a successful business. Why? Because your clients will become advocates for you.

Roadmap to Your Ideal Client

Realizing you aren’t meant for everyone is only part of the equation. At some point, you need to figure out who you are and aren’t looking for. This is where an ideal client roadmap comes in handy. It’s a matter of sitting down and writing down all of the characteristics you’re looking for in your clients:

  • Be specific: Don’t be afraid that you’ll exclude too many people … we’re trying to pinpoint certain characteristics. My husband & I also run a wedding photography business … when we meet a couple for the first time, we loving having casual conversations. However, we’re deliberate during parts of our meeting to answer the following questions: How interested are they in artistic photography? Are they into music? Do they love unique details? How are they making their day their own? What do they do on the weekends? Do they love traveling? There are more, but basically, we know that if this couple isn’t really into photography, and he sits at home while she goes shopping every weekend, they aren’t the couple for us!
  • Write some dialogue  I always ask my clients to tell me what a perfect inquiry would look like from a potential client. Again, asking them for specifics. Keywords will start popping out, and you’ll have a great client profile. This just builds on the previous point. Writing this email helps you realize certain things you didn’t know you were looking for.
  • Start with the bad: Sometimes, it’s easier to know what you’re not looking for. For instance, we don’t want traditional couples. In fact, if they mention that they’re very traditional, it sends up a red flag, and we’re very unlikely to work with them.
Marketing Yourself Towards Your Ideal Client
Once you understand who you’re looking for, you’ll have a better idea of the avenues you can use to get to them.
  • Spoil Your Clients: Do you personally thank each client who has booked your services? If not, you better. They are trusting you with their money & time … this is a huge deal. Beyond thanking them, it’s important to manage (and exceed) their expectations. Treat them with respect and do a good job. After you do these things, something funny will happen: they will advertise for you! Word of mouth advertising and referrals are the best way to land more clients just like the one you loved working with.
  • Stay Away From the Typical Means of Advertising: Are you paying for an ad in your community newspaper or website? Why? If every single person who subscribes is your ideal client, then it’s the best option for sure. However, it’s more likely that more than 1/2 of the leads you receive won’t be qualified leads. They won’t fit your profile! Instead, find ways to target your ideal client where you know they’ll be. If you’re a photographer, find a few of your favorite wedding blogs & make nice with the editors. Find ways to be featured without paying. Or, if the website attracts the brides you want to work with, pay for an ad there. At least you know you’ll be in front of the eyes of people you want to work with.
  • Slow Down: All too often, we rush into things because it worked for someone else. Sometimes, it’s best to sit back for a bit to decide where you’ll focus your energy. If you rush into advertising on the wrong platform, you’ll be wasting time & money. 
  • Ask For Help: After we work with our clients, we ask them for the referral. At first, I felt weird doing this, but now, I know I’ve delivered a service they should be happy to talk to their friends about. They might not realize our business thrives on referrals, so it’s my job to tell them. If they’ve loved working with us, they’ll be happy to send their friends our way. 
  • Say No: If you meet someone that doesn’t fit your profile, do not be afraid to say no. Trust me, sending away bad clients will open up room for the good, and you’ll thank yourself.
  • Be Yourself: When you’re true to yourself and your values, you’ll notice that you attract people like yourself.
  • Have a Strong Identity: Having a brand identity that will set you apart from your competition is so important. Hiring a designer will help ensure your best qualities are built into a tangible element of your brand. It will speak for you when you’re not there, and it will tell your clients that you’re reliable & professional.

Thinking you’re life changing … Are you?

Depending on your business, you’re probably influencing someone’s life in some way. It’s easy to become self-centric and think that you’re the only element that matters in the transaction. Instead of focusing on what your clients will do for you, just plan on blowing them out of the water. Treat them right. Follow-up with them. Keep them in the loop. Appreciate them. The rest will fall into place.

We are currently offering one-on-one brand reviews and consultations. If you’re considering rebranding, let’s talk first. Maybe you just need a little help with strategy, or you’re not sure about how to best represent your brand visually. We can talk on the phone, Skype or in-person to give you some perspective. Just send me a hello, and we can talk about the details.

We’re currently booking brand identity clients for 2012. Though, we don’t accept every client that comes our way: we love working with creatives who are passionate about what they do. We love clients who are crazy about design and understand that branding is more than a fancy logo. If that’s you, let’s talk!

  1. Brittani says:

    Such good stuff! This post was my favorite so far in the series…thanks so much for offering up your expertise! 🙂

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